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Early years and childcare

Childcare places for two year olds

From April 2024 there will be two funding offers available for two year olds in England, only one offer can be used per child:

  • 15 funded childcare hours for working parents of two year olds: Apply through Childcare Choices
  • 15 funded childcare hours for two year olds families in receipt of additional government support.
Apply for childcare places

When can my child start their place?

For both funding offers eligible two year olds can start to access their place in the term after they turn two year old:

Child turns two on or between

Child can start their place:

1 January - 31 March

at the start of the summer term (usually April)

1 April - 31 August

at the start of the autumn term (usually September)

1 September - 31 December

at the start of the spring term (usually January)

15 funded childcare hours for working parents of two year olds

From January 2024 working parents can apply online via Childcare Choices for 15 hours funding for their two year old. This funding is across 38 weeks of the year, totalling 570 hours. Some providers allow the 570 hours to be stretched across the year, please contact your provider for more information on their funded offer.

For working parents looking to access their funded hours from April 2024, they will need an eligibility code to give to their childcare provider in the term prior to starting their funded place. For children hoping to access their funding in April 2024 there is a deadline of 31 March 2024 to apply for an eligibility code.

To be eligible, each parent needs to be working and earning the equivalent of 16 hours a week at national minimum/living wage with neither parent earning over £100,000 per year. Further information on the eligibility criteria is provided on the Childcare Choices website.

Once you have received your unique eligibility code, please contact your chosen childcare provider to see if they have availability for your child in the upcoming term. Eligibility will need to be reconfirmed by the parent/carer on their government childcare account every 3 months for their child to continue accessing their funded hours.

To find a childcare provider in your area, please visit our Live Well website.

For information on what other help is available for parents when it comes to the cost of childcare, including tax free childcare, please see the Childcare Choices website.

Some working families in receipt of additional government support may instead be entitled to 15-hours childcare through the other two year old offer which is outlined below.

15 funded childcare hours for two year old families in receipt of additional government support

To check if you might be eligible, complete our online eligibility form.

Apply for childcare places

Contact the Early Years Funding team on 01244 973919

To help the Early Years Funding team to check your eligibility you will need to provide your name, date of birth and national insurance number as well as the name and date of birth of your child.

Eligibility criteria

If your child is two years old and you are in receipt of one or more of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit (with an annual net earned income below £15,400). If you are part of a couple, we may have to ask you for your last three most recent Universal Credit online statements or your entitlement letters from Universal Credit, so we can check your monthly take home pay is below the threshold.

Or if you have a total annual household (you and your partner) income below £16,190 and receive:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credits

Or if your child:

  • is looked after by the Council (is in foster care etc)
  • has been adopted from care or has left care through special guardianship
  • are subject to a child arrangement/residence order setting out with whom the child is to live
  • has a current education health and care plan
  • currently receives Disability Living Allowance


  • children of Zambrano carers
  • children in families granted immigration leave on the basis of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and subject to a condition that they have no recourse to public funds
  • children of families supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (“the 1999 Act”)
  • children of families supported under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who also have no recourse to public funds
  • Those who have claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • chen carers
  • families holding a BN(O) passport
  • spousal visa holders
  • work visa holders
  • student visa holders
  • those with no immigration status
  • those with a UK Ancestry Visa
  • those with temporary protection status under Section 12 of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • those with pre-settled status who do not meet the qualifying right to reside test


  • where either of the child’s parent(s) or carer(s) is currently serving in the Armed Forces

For eligible families the next step is to contact a Children's Centre in your area to arrange an appointment with an Early Years Worker. They can help you find a childcare provider in your area and will send your chosen provider a confirmation letter which confirms your child’s eligibility and will allow them to start their place as soon as they are eligible. They will also give you a free Bookstart pack and tell you about all the great activities you can access in the Children's Centre. Further information about Children's Centres in Cheshire West can be found on the Starting Well website.

If you are not eligible:

The online application process will display red cross and a message saying: Unfortunately, you are not eligible. This means that the eligibility checker has been unable to find a match to your details to records held on families on low incomes and eligibility benefits.

If you think that you should be entitled, you are advised to check with the HMRC benefits team that your details are up to date, especially if you have only recently been awarded benefits.

Please note that Working Tax Credits count towards your overall income so can take people over the qualifying threshold of household income, which is £16,190.

What will my child and I gain from taking a free two-year-old place?

Your child will receive 15 hours a week of playing, painting, reading, cooking, climbing, singing, dancing, dressing up, running around, building, gardening or whatever they like doing. But most of all, your child is learning with other children.

You will have 15 hours a week for you, get things done at home, study or look for work.

How does the place work?

Eligible two-year-olds are entitled to up to 15 hours a week (570 hours in a year). You will be able to take up these hours during the school term up to 38 weeks or flexibly during the year. Please speak to your chosen childcare provider on the funding options they have available.

You cannot take more than ten hours in one day, and fifteen hours must be taken over at least two days. You can split your place across two different childcare providers, taking some hours with one setting and the remaining hours with another setting.

Where to find help?

For more information or queries please contact us: